How to Inspect Your Gutters

Gutters and downspouts are installed along a roof’s edge to capture and direct runoff. A clogged or damaged gutter often fails to move water away from the structure efficiently and can lead to puddling, leakage and even structural damage. Clean out and inspect gutters at least twice a year or more frequently if damage is suspected or nearby trees lose enough leaves to potentially clog up the gutter or downspout. Always use caution when working on a ladder. Make sure the ladder is firmly planted on even ground and use a spotter.

1.  Scoop leaves and major debris out of the gutter. Either place removed materials in a bucket securely attached to the ladder or drop them onto a tarp on the ground.

2.  Flush smaller debris out of the gutters with a hose. As the fine materials move with the water, watch the underside of the gutter for leaks and make sure water exits freely through the downspout.

3. Unclog the downspout if water is not flowing freely. If the downspout connects to an underground pipe, remove it from the pipe. Use a strong spray of water to loosen debris. If the hose fails to clear the downspout, use a plumber’s snake to break up the clog.

4. Check for standing or extremely slow-moving water in the gutter. If water fails to flow toward the downspout efficiently, the slope is inadequate. Spikes or hangers require relocation up or down to create a slight slope toward the downspout.

5. Look for space between the gutter and wall or fascia, especially if water runs down the side of the wall during rain events. The spikes or hangers can work themselves loose over time and may require replacement or resecuring so the gutter is securely attached to the structure’s rafters through the fascia, if present, and the roofing material overhangs about one-third of the gutter.

6. Identify seams, ends or other parts of the gutter where sealant is missing or leaks are observed. Leaks along the seams or end caps are repaired by removing old sealant and applying new material. Holes in the body of the fiberglass or aluminum require more extensive repairs or replacement of the section.

Things You Will Need

  • Ladder
  • Gloves
  • Tarp or bucket
  • Hose
  • Plumber’s snake, if needed

Tip: It is often easier and less messy to clean out gutters when no rain events have occurred for several days and debris is dry. If debris is soggy, wear latex or rubber gloves under regular work gloves.

Warning: Always use caution when working on a ladder. Make sure the ladder is set on level, firm ground and have another person hold the bottom steady.